Sketch for Survival


I took part in Sketch for Survival last year, and was very pleased to be able to join in again in 2018.  This time around, it’s a warthog, for no better reason than they’re fun to draw.

However, I made it for a very important reason: Mr Handsome here, along with dozens of other artworks, is being sold to raise money for wildlife conservation.  You can bid here, or browse through and look at one of the other lots and help wildlife while owning something beautiful.


A story about a story – part 2: Emmy

So after I’d got the story down, I had to get Emmy, the main character, right.  From fairly early on, my idea of Emmy was of a little girl with lots of curly hair that didn’t always behave itself.  The picture in my head doesn’t always match up with what ends up on the paper, but I’m pretty happy with how close she ended up here!

These are the sorts of little scribbles and doodles I make to try and work out a character.  As I’m drawing, I’m working out what her face and hair and general shape and proportions should be.  I’m also working out what sort of a person she is – what she likes to wear, how she stands and runs and how she interacts with her world.  For example, a shy person is going to move and react in a different way to someone who is more confident.  Emmy is meant to be outgoing as well as eager to find things out so I tended to draw her leaning over, wriggling around, and investigating her surroundings.

This was the first attempt, and it wasn’t a million miles off what I wanted.  Her proportions were about right, but her face didn’t fit (I do like the grumpy hat face one though).  It was a little too old for the character so I worked on making her face rounder, and her features smaller.




They were quite small changes – I gave her a shorter neck as well as making her face more round- but they made all the difference.


The thumbnails and pencil roughs came next!

A story about a story – part 1

I’ve done pictures for other people’s books, but I’ve never managed to get my own picture books off the ground.  I’ve got lots of ideas, and have got several of the more complete ones to my lovely agency, and each time my lovely agent has said something like, ‘I think the text needs more work’.  Which is the nicest way possible for them to say ‘lol no’.

I’d put a lot of work into a story about a crocodile that had taken a lot of plotting and planning and thought, and while I was wrangling it into shape, a new idea popped up. I can’t remember how it appeared in my brain – it seemed to emerge from nowhere but very quickly I could see how the story would travel from beginning to end, and what the main character looked like, and her family, and where she lived (usually, I have the idea, and then bits of story sort of gradually coalesce around it until there’s enough for a whole book.  It can be surprising how much thought the assembling of a few hundred words can entail).

I wrote, doodled and drew and sent both stories to my agent. Regarding the crocodile story, the work of my heart, the product of my artistic soul, the email said something to the effect of ‘I think the text needs more work’.

New Story also came back with ‘I think the text needs more work,’ but also, ‘it could be good and this is where it needs improving’.  Two-ish rewrites, a few more tweaks and lovely agent said ‘THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO!*  Storyboards and finished artwork for the end of January, please’.  It’s needed by then so that it can go to the Bologna Book Fair, which is international, and one of the big ones for children’s books. Oooooh…

That might sound like a long time to the deadline.  It isn’t.  That’s the cover and twelve spreads to work out and produce as a ‘good’ rough.  There will be finished artwork to produce, although this won’t be the whole book but the cover and two or three double-page spreads worth.  This is to show a publisher how the style will work in the book, and give an idea as to the finished item.  You don’t do final illustrations for whole book: it will get changed, and then months of work might go for nothing.

One thing I do like, however, is a nice solid deadline.  When I don’t have one, its like my brain can’t quite get into gear.  You can sense the engine running, but the clutch isn’t quite engaging somehow.  Give me a deadline and suddenly everything clunks into place and everything starts whirring and clanking off down the road.

So, we’re now working on tuning up the main character, and now I’m learning about all the little things that have to be taken into account to make her just right… Onwards and upwards!


*She didn’t say this, but it is my blog and that’s what I’ve decided should have happened.

This season’s greetings!

Well, we’ve had snow.  We’re down south so it lasted mere minutes, but we had snow and I’m feeling festive.  You can tell by the exclamation mark in the title of the post.

In between nativities and making angel costumes and all the general Advent huggaboo, I’ve managed to squeeze in the annual Christmas card.  And oh look! It’s a terrible pun, which is possibly my favourite sort of pun.

I know it says Christmas, but whatever you celebrate, I hope it’s a good one.


Sketch for Survival


Well, I haven’t posted for the usual vast aeons of time, and when I do, it’s to try and sell something.

However, this is for an excellent cause. Every 15 minutes an elephant is killed. Explorers Against Extinction has asked artists and celebrities to to take those 15 minutes and create something that will help to raise money for conservation and push back on behalf of elephants, rhinos and many other animals. Hence Sketch for Survival.

My artwork is above and I hope it’s going to help, even just a little. You can bid on the link below. (It’s a photo, not a scan which is why it looks a bit grey, as my computer is in microchip hospital. Sorry.)

It’s just one of many artworks donated by many amazing artists. So even if cute rhinos aren’t your thing, please look at the varied and beautiful work on offer,  get something lovely for your walls and do something wonderful for something rare. #explorersagainstextinction #sketchforsurvival #wildlife #wildlifeart #rhinoceros

Today, I am being tyrannised by blank paper.

“Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.”

Neil Gaiman


I am writing this as procrastination because I haven’t done as much as I’d like lately (I’ve go so many things I want to do, and so little time at the moment, that when I get some free time I sometimes just mentally spin around because I don’t know what to do first), so I thought, I know, I’ll SIT here and NOT MOVE until something has been CREATED. Then I stared at the paper for a bit and started this post instead.

It does sort of tie in though.  This is a picture of what my brain is doing before I go to sleep, versus what my brain does when faced with a blank sheet of paper.






It it not the dragon going grrrr in this picture, just fyi.


My agents, the nice people at Plum Pudding Illustration held an exhibition in spring last year, and as per being swamped with a combination of small people stuff and trying to get this done in time, I kind of forgot to post this.

Catching up

I’ve just looked at the date of the last post I made and, wow, it’s been a long time. A really, really long time.  I thought it had been a few months, but a hectic year has just flown by and here I am again after another massive hiatus.  For some reason, small children are sort of distracting – having two aged two have been somewhat all-consuming.  Adding in nights of not much sleep and well, I’ve been doing stuff in dribs and drabs, then neglecting to post it here.

I’m also dipping my toe into Instagram (here I am!) and am trying to figure out how to use it best in conjunction with the blog and other web stuff/social media.

So here’s a cat.



This was done a very little bit with pencil, but mostly in something called Derivan Liquid Graphite, and it is great.  It’s like painting but with graphite, and has a lovely smooshy slightly grainy thing going on (technical stuff) and you can push it about and even erase it to some extent (if you get the rewettable type).  I’ve been using watered down Indian ink to build up layers, but this is a nicer, easier way to do it for me.  Miau!

May your days be merry and bright…


Last year, we were staying in the Peak District, and as night fell on Christmas day, so did the snow.  It was the loveliest thing.

It was slightly less lovely when our car got stuck in the pub car park the next day, but you have to take the rough with the smooth in these situations, and it was worth it for the cold beauty that the snow brought to the landscape, at once stark and soft.

My son wants it to snow this Christmas, but since today it was unseasonably warm enough to go out in just a t-shirt and a thin cardigan, he’s going to have to go on hoping.  I’ll be hoping along with him, though.

I was looking at previous posts, and saw last year’s card.  I wrote ‘seasons greetings’ on that as well.  I suppose that means something or other – I think it’s just a joyful idea that quite a lot of people all celebrate this time of year, whichever direction they’ve come at it from.

Whatever you’re putting the lights on for, though, I hope it’s a cheerful and peaceful time for you.